It can be beneficial to define and understand the types of flour and how they can best be utilized in your baking process. Making the best choice for flour, as an ingredient, can impact the final outcome of your recipe's texture and flavor.
An important characteristic of wheat flour is protein and the amount of gluten. Anytime the flour contains more protein it also contains more gluten. This is formed when water and flour are mixed together and then kneaded. The bread is allowed to rise when gluten creates the cell structure which traps the gas produced by the yeast. Here is a description of each flour, their characteristics and foods they are best used in.
The important thing here is to know the kind of wheat this type of flour came from. It contains about 10 percent protein and can be used in a wide variety of baked goods. The harder wheat flour, usually grown in the midwest, is best for breads. The softer wheat flour, normally grown in the south, is better suited for pastries, pies and cereals.
The bleaching agents are used to whiten the flour. All cake flour is bleached. Some, in fact most, all-purpose flours are also bleached. The bleaching in cake flour gives it a better hold of the butter or shortening and sugars used which results in a better crumb.
This is normally ground from hard red wheat and is high in protein. Bread flour is usually bleached. Mainly used in baking breads.
This flour, in most cases, is bleached with chlorine. Usually ground from a soft red winter wheat and the protein percentage is low, usually about 7 percent. Mainly used for cake making. Self rising flour is a bleached cake flour also with a lower protein amount, with the addition of blended salt and baking powder. This flour is used in the south quite a bit for biscuits and cakes and has leavening agents already added. This can produce a better crumbling factor and makes desserts more fluffy and lighter. It's important to be mindful of this and adjust ingredients accordingly if this flour was not used in the recipe.
This is an unbleached, coarse ground flour higher in protein than the cake flour. It is also ground from soft wheat. Mainly used in baking pastry goods.
This is a coarsely ground whole grain of the durum wheat. During the milling process a certain type of blade is able to flake off the bran and germ of the wheat which produces semolina. This is normally yellow but if a softer wheat is used it will have a whiter appearance. Semolina flour is best suited for pasta noodles, also used to make couscous and bulgar.
This flour is ground from the entire grain and is the most nutritious. This includes the wheat germ, which has a relatively short shelf-life and the bran, which inhibits rising. This is best used for denser baked goods. A blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flour can be used in many baking recipes with suitable results and a healthier outcome.